FLYING WITHOUT WINGS

Those of you that know me will know that one of my biggest fears is heights. However, you might remember that skydiving was one of my “to do’s” on my bucket list. Taupo is the first destination in New Zealand where it is possible to do a skydive and I knew that if I was going to go through with it, I had to get it over and done with as soon as possible.

So there I was, Taupo Skydive Centre, Memorial Drive, Taupo (yes that is actually the street name!!).

0ft… Once we had arrived we were given a safety briefing and watched a video of other people skydiving – both did little to calm my nerves. It was then time to meet my diving instructor, Brett, and get ready for the jump. Within a few minutes I was dressed in an electric blue jumpsuit, complete with full body harness and hat (with chin strap!!). Safe to say I looked ridiculous but for the sake of safety I didn’t care. Time to board the plane!

7,500ft… Half way up! The views were already absolutely incredible – not that I could appreciate them or think about anything other than the fact I was going to be jumping out of a plane very soon.

10,000ft… Doors open! There was one girl who had decided to jump at 12,000 feet, so once at 10,000 the doors were opened in preparation for her skydive! The last thing I needed was to watch someone literally fall out of a plane just before I was about to do the same. She fell so quickly and it was at that point that I really thought “I CAN’T do this”!!

15,000ft… Fly or die time! So here we go, the long anticipated moment. I was first up, which in hindsight I’m very thankful for as I don’t think I could have sat and watched other people jump! People always ask “were you scared the chute wouldn’t open”, “was it cold up there”, “was it loud or quiet”. And the answer to all those questions is “I have absolutely no idea”. From the moment my legs were dangly over the side of the doorway I was thinking of nothing. And next thing I knew I was falling through the sky! The feeling is something that I will never be able to accurately describe.. But it was absolutely incredible!! It’s so exhilarating and breathtakingly beautiful at the same time!

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We were free falling for a minute in total, but I wish it had been longer! Having said this, once the parachute was opened it was awesome! It was at this point that I could really appreciate the views around me, and being able to see beautiful Taupo from that high up was unbelievable! Brett even let me steer the parachute, which was actually a lot more difficult than I realised. He was much better at it than I was so I swiftly returned the controls to him.

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So overall the flight went very smoothly.. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for our landing!! As you approach the ground there are people whose job it is to grab hold of you once you’ve landed so that the chute doesn’t pull you up again. Whether it was Brett’s misjudgment or the misjudgment of one of the ground staff, we somehow managed to land directly on top of her so she was completely flattened. Luckily no one was hurt and she was able to see the funny side, which was a good thing because Brett and I found it hilarious!

Once back on solid ground I was utterly speechless! Brett asked me if I would recommend others to do a skydive and I can honestly say that EVERYONE should do it at least once, regardless of whether you’re scared of heights (that includes you Dad!!).

Back down to earth… Safe to say it was a bizarre feeling to be walking around a supermarket within an hour of having landed from my skydive. Next stop was a unique Stray destination called Blue Duck Station, which is basically a farm in the absolute middle of nowhere. We had a house to ourselves, complete with bedrooms, living room and kitchen. With 30 of us in there it almost felt like what I would imagine an American frat/sorority house to be like. That night Jinx prepared the most amazing Mexican themed dinner, complete with barbecued chicken burritos and LOTS of sangria!!

It’s a good thing we had a good feed as our next stop was National Park, where we would be doing the famous 19km Tongariro Alpine Crossing! I knew it was going to be tough, but nothing could prepare me for how tough it really was. The first hour of walking is not so bad as it’s all pretty flat. After this, however, you have to traverse the mountain range, which involved climbing I-don’t-know-how-many steps. It felt like they went on forever and it really showed me how unfit I’ve become whilst travelling!! The views from the top made it all worth it though. From up there we overlooked the magnificent Mount Doom (famous from the Lord of the Rings films) and the beautiful Emerald Lakes! The whole walk took us 6 hours to complete but the views all the way were breathtaking and made it even more worthwhile!

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Our final stop on the North island was Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city. Unfortunately while we were there the weather was pretty dismal, but this gave us a good excuse to visit the famous Te Papa Museum. The museum was without a doubt one of the best I’ve been to… And I’ve been to a fair few of London’s! They had three exhibitions on – “The Scale of our War”, which was all about New Zealand’s involvement in the First World War. This was my favourite of the three – I had no idea the huge part that New Zealand had played against Germany!

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The second exhibition was called “People’s Impact on the Land”, which explained all about the hurricanes and earthquakes that NZ is so prone to and how things have changed over time. This was pretty cool and there was even a room you could stand in which simulated a real earthquake! Finally, the third exhibition was all about the Maori people and their culture. This was so interesting and I especially liked reading all about the history of the Haka, having watched it many times on the television during the All Blacks’ rugby matches.

That’s all for now but I’ll be back soon to tell you all about what we got up to on the South Island!

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